By Felicity Clarke, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – One of the most important Latin American artists of the twentieth century, Luis Felipe Noé has an extensive retrospective opening at the Museum of Modern Art this week. Featuring paintings from the beginnings of his career in the 1960s during times of political instability in Argentina up to last year’s spectacular piece for the Venice Biennale.
The exhibition is an essential homage to an innovative and politically astute artist, writer and intellectual. Born in 1933 in Buenos Aires, Noé came to painting after studying law and writing art reviews for newspapers and alongside fellow Argentine artists including Rómulo Macció, Ernesto Deira and Jorge de la Vega, formed the collective Otra Figuración (Other Figuration), with Noé the main theorist of the group.
With frenetic brushwork, distorted figures, political content and merging the influence of a range of major twentieth century art trends from abroad, the work articulates an acceptance of chaos, which Noé describes as a central theme in his work.
The retrospective features dark, intense canvases from this period including Introduccion a la esperanza (introduction to Hope) and Cerrado por brujería (Closed for Sorcery), both from 1963, which blend screaming crowds and iconography in a frenzy of disorder and abstraction, speaking of the political instability of the time.
Following Otra Figuración, Noé lived in New York where he made and destroyed work, and published the text Antiestética in 1965 which develops his theories of chaos before returning to Buenos Aires and taking a nine year break from painting.
The violent military coup of 1976 coincided with his return to painting. Noé fled to Paris where he lived for eleven years, however continued to visit South America. In 1980, he traveled to Brazil and spent time in the Amazon which led to the Serie Amazonica, a series of vibrant expressive works with ecological themes and a contemplation of the idea of ‘America’, but as ever with a sense of disruption and chaos.
Returning to Buenos Aires in 1987, Noé continued to work with canvas techniques, crumpling, distorting and attaching items, and working increasingly with bright color. Representing Argentina at the Venice Biennale in 2009, he created a giant eleven by three meter work merging painting and drawing, figure and abstraction in a mesmerizing maze of expressive line and bursting color.
Arriving at MAM last week for the final installation and opening of the retrospective, which has been planned for the last five years, the 77 year old Noé spoke about the political element being unconscious, saying “For me, and for each artist, there’s the view of the artist but he doesn’t think about politics, but as politics is one of the things that embraces mankind, it appears in the work”.
He went on to talk about his passion for abstraction. “My interest is in thinking abstractly, my interest is life. We create the world abstractly and it’s going to become more and more abstract, which is easier for young people to understand” he says. “Human beings are abstract. You’re not the same as you were yesterday. Everything changes.”
The retrospective of Noé’s fascinating works over five decades, which lie between abstraction and figuration, is an engaging, energetic picture of constant renewal, change, and of course, chaos.
Place: MAM-RJ, Av Infante Dom Henrique 85, Parque do Flamengo
Price: R$8, students and over 65 is R$4, under 12 is free
Date: Until February 13th, 2011
Time: Tuesday – Friday midday til 6PM, Saturday and Sunday midday til 7PM